March 9, 1998
Mr. Jerry Brixner
14 Hartom Road
Rochester, NY 14624
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue
advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the
information presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Brixner:
I have received your letter of February 5 addressed to the Comptroller,
the Attorney General and myself in which you raised questions concerning the
legal notice requirements relating to hearings held by a town board.
In this regard, as you are aware, the advisory jurisdiction of the
Committee on Open Government pertains to the Open Meetings Law. That
statute pertains to meetings of public bodies, which must be preceded by
notice given in accordance with §104 of that statute. A meeting, however, is
different from a hearing, and the notice requirements differ.
A meeting is generally a gathering of quorum of a public body for the
purpose of discussion, deliberation, and potentially taking action within the
scope of its powers and duties. A hearing is generally held to provide
members of the public with an opportunity to express their views concerning
a particular subject, such as a proposed budget, a local law or a matter
involving land use. Hearings are usually required to be preceded by the
publication of a legal notice. In contrast, §104(3) of the Open Meetings Law
specifies that notice of a meeting must merely be "given" to the news media
and posed. Further, there is no requirement that a newspaper, for example,
publish a notice given regarding a meeting to be held under the Open
There is no general provision that relates to legal notice that must be
given prior to hearings. Those requirements are usually found in the sections
of law dealing with the subject or activity at issue. For example, while towns,
villages and school districts all must hold public hearings on their proposed
budgets, there are separate provisions in the Town Law, the Village Law and
the Education Law dealing with each. In short, notice requirements may
differ, depending on the nature of the hearing.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the
matter and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Carl M. McCall, Comptroller
Dennis Vacco, Attorney General